NAPA — Lixit Corporation, as its name implies, is the largest small animal watering device manufacturer in the world, with a 70 percent market share in its category and revenues in excess of $10 million annually. The firm has been growing at a double-digit rate for the past couple of years, despite a five percent decline during the recession.
The company also produces feeding devices, animal care accessories, pet houses, pet exercise equipment and has a number of new product innovations in various development stages.
Lixit recently acquired and relocated Equitex, a company originally based in Petaluma, combining a number of textile products for horses shows into the firm’s total product mix.
Lixit is also a leading manufacturer in the overall U.S. pet products industry, estimated to generate total consumer expenditures of $52.8 billion annually, according to the 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA).
The firm is unique in several other ways. President and CEO Linda Parks heads this business recognized by National Women’s Business Enterprise Certification as a woman owned, operated and controlled enterprise.
Ms. Parks came to the firm in 1971 when she answered a newspaper want ad for a buyer to source products for Lixit (a facet of the business that she continues to enjoy). She was named President and CEO in 1994.
The Napa Chamber of Commerce honored Lixit in 2009 as the Family Friendly Business of the Year because of the firm’s flexible policies that make it easy for employees to enjoy family time.
The firm has a playroom for employee children, two covered and well-landscaped outdoor dining and break areas, and a pet-friendly environment where dogs and cats are welcome – one cat lives in the factory 24/7. There is even a crib in the CFO’s office to care for an infant while on the job.
Lixit numbers approximately 900 SKU’s in its product line marketed under 32 brands, including the largest pet franchise chains, the nation’s leading retailers as well as mom and pop pet shops. The company is planning to move its products into mainstream outlets, such as drug store chains, in the near future.
The firm’s market is 97 percent U.S.-based, and despite many offers, company management and shareholders for this employee-owned firm have consistently resisted manufacturing and assembling its products offshore – as well as fending off buyout and merger offers over the years.
“Lixit was founded in the garage of geologist, Dr. Frank Achley, back in 1968,” said Ms. Parks. “A year later the ball-point tube watering system for animals was introduced and the firm really took off.”
Dr. Achley retired in 1994 and his employees purchased Lixit through an Employee Stock Ownership Trust Fund.
“Our goal is to ensure that Lixit has a happy and homey atmosphere while maintaining a 24-hour on-time order-to- shipping schedule to satisfy our customers. Everyone here loves being able to live and work close to home. We have no intention of moving.”
Some 40 percent of the firm’s 115 productive and dedicated employees are adults with developmental disabilities.
“We started working with disabled adults in the 1980s beginning with the Napa Valley Support Services sheltered workshop. In 2002 Napa Valley Support Services asked us if they could place some workers in our factory. Initially small groups were trained and the program expanded. Today we also partner with Napa Valley PSI (Products, Services & Industries) a non-profit organization providing work training, work opportunities, and job placement services for adults with disabilities, as well as with Community Access. These individuals are among our best and most reliable workers.”
Today the firm occupies a total of 64,000 square feet of factory, office and warehouse space in three locations. Company headquarters is at 100 S. Coombs St. in Napa.
Company services include metal fabrication, injection molding, blow molding, silk screening, metal finishing, rubber molding, tool and die design along with engineering and product design.
Design consultations with clients are an integral part of Lixit’s point of inception to packaging continuity of support.
Lixit has 12 sales representations across the U.S. along with an East Coast Sales Manager. All major customers have their own Lixit account managers.
An example of the Lixit creative design process was the development of a device that does double duty as a watering bowl on one side and a feeding bowl on the other side, plus the engineering of packaging that makes it easier for retailers to store, stack and display Lixit products.
The pet exercise category is also on the rise. Lixit makes a variety of items such as hoops, tunnels, bounce-back ball launching devices and other fitness products.
“The secret of our success is being able to offer quality products at economical prices everyone can afford, plus the ability to bring to market innovative new product ideas, designs and multi-functional capabilities on a regular basis,” Ms. Parks said. “We develop, patent and market four or five new products each year.”
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